Fuji X-Pro1 Camera Comparisons

I have just updated the Fuji X-Pro1 Review with detailed camera comparisons with the Canon 5D Mark III and Nikon D800. RAW support has finally become available with the latest updates from Adobe for both Lightroom and Photoshop, so I was able to extract RAW files from all cameras to do a comprehensive analysis. My findings? The Fuji X-Pro1 RAW images look as impressive as the JPEG images. Despite the fact that I down-sampled the Nikon D800 and Canon 5D Mark III images, which should give them an advantage in terms of handling noise, the pixel level quality of the Fuji X-Pro1 sensor is still superior at low ISOs! At first, I thought that I did something wrong in Lightroom – maybe accidentally applied noise reduction to Fuji X-Pro1 images. However, after looking through the images in detail and resetting to RAW file defaults, I was surprised to find out that the Fuji X-Pro1 RAW files indeed looked cleaner. Here is an example comparison at ISO 200 between the Fuji X-Pro1 and the Canon 5D Mark III:

Fuji X-Pro1 ISO 200 RAW Canon 5D Mark III ISO 200

Take a look at noise levels on both crops and compare noise levels on the second DVD from the bottom. The output from the X-Pro1 looks cleaner!

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Maximizing Dynamic Range

The more time I spend in my photography pursuits, the more I appreciate cameras that capture and photos that exploit their maximum dynamic range potential. Digital cameras have undergone dramatic improvements over the last 12+ years, but they still don’t come close to the human eye’s dynamic range capabilities. By some estimates, the human eye can distinguish up to 24 f-stops of dynamic range. Higher end DSLRs such as the Nikon D800 by comparison, can capture up to a theoretical max of 14.4 f-stops of dynamic range. The usable dynamic range of most DSLRs, however, is closer to 5-9 f-stops, considering the impact of noise, which can render some of the DSLRs’ f-stop range impractical to exploit. Thus your eyes – at least for now – are still far more capable than the best DSLR relative to recognizing various tonal gradations. As I will demonstrate via my new model, “Doris” (shown below) of the Pittsburgh Zoo, even photos taken with high quality DSLRs sometimes need a bit of extra processing to match what your eyes can see. The photo below is the result of a processing technique I often employ to boost dynamic range when it is apparent that my camera’s sensor failed to capture what I remember seeing.

1) Good Dynamic Range Starts With A Good Camera

The first step in maximizing dynamic range is to have a camera that scores high in this category. DXO Mark can provide a good understanding of how DSLRs stack up against each other in this regard. The results from the D800 dynamic range testing have been amazing, clearly showing that it has the capacity to pull significant shadow detail while still keeping noise levels relatively low. If and when I actually get my hands on a D800, I will be able to determine this for myself! For this tutorial, I used my trusty Nikon D7000, which despite its modest price, has a very good dynamic range score.

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Firmware Updates for Nikon D4, D800/D800E

Nikon has released new firmware update version 1.01 for the Nikon D4, D800 and D800E camera bodies. The major issue resolved is the reported lockup problem.

Nikon D4 vs D800

From the Nikon website:

Nikon D4 Issues Resolved:

  • When a still image was captured while viewing existing images in playback mode, the monitor turned off, the memory card access lamp glowed steadily, and, in some rare cases, the camera ceased to respond to operations. This issue has been resolved.
  • When network functions were used with certain settings applied, RAW images were also transferred when Network > Send file as was set to JPEG only. This issue has been resolved.
  • When an option that utilized the main command dial was selected for Custom Setting f15: Playback zoom, and an image was zoomed in or out with playback with certain settings applied, shooting shutter speed, aperture, and exposure compensation settings were sometimes changed. This issue has been resolved.

D4 Firmware update is available here: D4 A:1.01/B:1.01

Nikon D800/D800E Issues Resolved

  • When a still image was captured while viewing existing images in playback mode, the monitor turned off, the memory card access lamp glowed steadily, and, in some rare cases, the camera ceased to respond to operations. This issue has been resolved.
  • When the Wireless Transmitter WT-4 was used with certain settings applied, RAW images were also transferred when Wireless transmitter > Transfer settings > Send file as was set to JPEG only. This issue has been resolved.
  • A dark shadow sometimes appeared at the bottom edge of images captured with Active D-Lighting set to any option other than Off with Image area set to 5:4 (30×24). This issue has been resolved.

D800 Firmware update is available here: Nikon D800 A:1.00/B:1.01

D800E Firmware update is available here: Nikon D800E A:1.00/B:1.01

Pinterest – Copyright Infringement Made Cool?

To start out on a positive note, let me say that I think the story of Pinterest is inspiring. It is tempting to believe that many of the simpler ideas associated with innovation have been thought of, and only very complex, time consuming, expensive initiatives can break new ground. Along comes Pinterest, offering an extremely simple idea – providing the electronic paradigm of a corkboard with photos, recipes, and other notes that people want to keep handy and visible, and giving them the opportunity to link to those of others. If anyone doubts that there is always a simple, yet powerful idea lurking around the corner, look no further than Pinterest.

Pinterest is turning out to be a great opportunity for small and large businesses to gain exposure and increase sales. Other blog and news sites, such as Mansurovs, are garnering additional traffic as a result of people pinning its articles to various photography boards. Many entrepreneurs are developing social networking and marketing strategies based on Pinterest. I believe that Facebook and Google+ are likely scrambling to emulate more of Pinterest’s capabilities, lest they find themselves being marginalized. Pinterest’s user base has exploded over the last few years, so it is clearly gaining momentum and has captured the latest buzz within the internet community.

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A Little Comfort as You Anxiously Await Your D800 or D4 or 5D MK III arrival

Passage of timeAs I, like many of you, have been waiting for a new Nikon camera body to arrive, a recurring thought has come to my mind. It comes from the words of my father and it might hold a cure for what ails you if you, like me, suffer from common Diseases that Plague Photographers. Whenever I wanted something badly, but couldn’t seem to get it fast enough, he would say, “Anticipation is greater than realization”. To a young, impatient boy then and to an older, impatient man now, those words never seemed to comfort me as my father might have liked. Although never very comforting, they were very true.

We have all been there. Maybe it was that new bike that seemed to take forever to save for. Perhaps it was your dream car that required you spend all of your free time working that extra job. Whatever you were hoping for, the anticipation and build up prior to acquiring it was likely much more exciting than actually getting the item. Who can’t identify with the new car owner that seems less excited about his/her new car after the first car payment comes due? And golfers are notorious for claiming to experience longer drives, straighter iron shots, and more holed putts after changing clubs. Interestingly, their new clubs lose their “magic” after a month and start behaving very similar to their old clubs.

I am sure my father was trying to get me to enjoy the wait and learn a bit of patience. Perhaps he was always hoping that if enough time would pass, my insatiable need to spend my money on some new flashy item would dissipate. Although very wise, dad’s tactics in this area often had less than the desired effects on his not so bright son. You may experience better luck with your kids or yourself. So I pass the lesson on to you. As for me [doorbell chime], I gotta go see what is in the B&H box that just arrived. Maybe if I am lucky, it was me that got Bob’s D800 this time. Enjoy the anticipation as you wait!

Greta Got My Nikon D800…

A little more than a week ago, I realized why I had not received my Nikon D800. Through sources that cannot be named, I was informed that Greta Van Susteren, the well-known commentator at the Fox News Network, received the camera originally assigned to my order. I was further surprised to find this unique note (below) from the delivery service. Today’s GretaWire confirmed that my D800 was already being used!

D800 Delivery Notice

Am I upset? Absolutely not. I have no issue with Greta “jumping line” at B&H to get my camera. “Why not?”, you ask? The injustice of it all! Someone must pay for having my D800 rerouted to Greta! Surely someone must be “guilty” of… well… uh… something! Or so the popular thinking goes…

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Nikon vs Canon vs Fuji in a Studio

I have been super busy working on a couple of big projects lately and this weekend I helped out Lola with her bridal work. While setting up the lights, I decided to try out and shoot with three different cameras – the Nikon D800 (see the recently published review of the Nikon D800), the Canon 5D Mark III (a full review is coming up in a couple of weeks) and the Fuji X-Pro 1 (also coming up for a review soon).

The Nikon and the Canon experience was very similar, both were stellar in terms of color, sharpness and autofocus accuracy. The Fuji X-Pro 1 produced beautiful images with great-looking skin tones, but was rather disappointing in terms of autofocus – it just could not seem to lock well to my subject in indoors environment. I will be writing about my overall impressions of the Fuji X-Pro 1 soon, but to give you a short version, I am rather disappointed by it. To be honest, I was more excited about the Fuji X-Pro 1 than I was with the Canon and Nikon cameras, because I was really hoping for a mirrorless camera that could be a great alternative to the higher-end APS-C sensor DSLRs. The Fuji X-Pro 1 just seemed to have so much potential… I guess it will be a while until we see something that good. Perhaps the second or third generation of the X-Pro? Or the upcoming Canon mirrorless?

Here is a fun game for you – all three of the below images were shot with either the Nikon D800, the Canon 5D Mark III or the Fuji X-Pro 1. Care to guess which one is which?

Nikon vs Canon vs Fuji #1

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iPad 3 Wallpapers from Nikon D800

I decided to post a couple of iPad 3 (a.k.a. the “New iPad” or just “the iPad”) wallpapers taken by the Nikon D800 while I am working on the upcoming Nikon 85mm f/1.8G lens review. I am hoping to publish it within the next few days, so that I could start working on reviewing the Canon 5D Mark III and some high-end Canon lenses. These images were requested by our readers in higher resolution and since the new iPad has a whopping 2048×1536 pixel retina display, I thought it would be better to extract them in a bigger size. They should also work as wallpapers for the original iPad and iPad 2, but obviously the images are not going to be as detailed…

iPad 3 Wallpaper 1

1) Click here to download the wallpaper version in 2048×1536 resolution

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Nikon D800 vs D700 FPS and Buffer Comparison

Many of our readers have been asking me to provide some information on how the new Nikon D800 (see our review) compares to the Nikon D700 (see our review) in terms of speed (“fps” or “frames per second”) and camera buffer. In the below video, I show the performance of both cameras side by side when shooting 14-bit Lossless Compressed RAW images with very fast SanDisk Extreme Pro 16GB compact flash memory:

As you can see, the Nikon D800 is slower than the Nikon D700 with its 4 fps speed versus 5 fps on the D700. It also lasts about half a second shorter than the D700 before its buffer gets full at around the 4 second mark. Nikon’s estimates for the D800 and D700 are 17 images for the D800 and 20 images for the D700 before memory buffer gets full and fps slows down. My tests are a little off, because the D800 should be a little faster according to Nikon – 17 / 4 fps is 4.25 and 20 / 5 fps is 4. Interestingly, the same thing happens when both cameras are set to 12-bit RAW – the D700 still lasts longer. Note how much longer it takes for the D800 to complete its write from the camera buffer into the memory card – now that’s one huge buffer! I bet it is at least 4 times larger than the one on the D700. Lastly, note that the D800 shutter sounds very different than the one on the D700.

Some people have been reporting memory compatibility issues with the D800. I have not seen any issues so far with any of the SanDisk & Lexar cards I have (I have been using SanDisk and Lexar cards for my cameras exclusively), so I believe memory card issues are happening with cheap third party memory cards only. Hopefully we will see a firmware update from Nikon soon – the D800 seems to have occasional slowdowns when writing to and reading from CF and SD memory cards, as reported in my Nikon D800 Review.

Nikon D800 for Sports and Wildlife Photography

While the Nikon D4 is the proper tool for sports and wildlife photography due to its faster speed and extreme ISO capabilities, many photographers are also looking at the Nikon D800 for action photography. First, the high-resolution sensor could give some “reach” opportunities with plenty of options to crop in-camera (DX mode) or in post (I highly recommend to do it in post instead of in-camera). Second, the AF system on the D800 is identical to the one on the D4 (Advanced Multi-CAM 3500FX). And lastly, noise characteristics of the D800 are very similar to the D4 when images are down-sampled to 16 MP (down-sampling can also result in increased sharpness). The biggest disadvantage is the slow 4 FPS speed of the D800.

Since many sports and wildlife photographers have been asking me about the D800 AF performance, I decided to share some information on it that I have collected so far. First of all, the f/8 focusing capability is not a myth – it definitely works. I tried the Nikon 200-400mm f/4 VR with the TC-20E III and focusing worked, even in low-light conditions (although not as accurate as in daylight conditions). Granted the image quality was pretty bad (the 200-400mm just doesn’t couple well with anything but the TC-14E II), AF worked just fine. This means that the Nikon 500mm f/4 and 600mm f/4 lenses will also autofocus with the TC-20E III teleconverter and you are not just limited to very bright shooting conditions. I will have to do some more in-depth digging with the TC-20E III and other long lenses, but so far I am impressed by the updated AF system.

What about the TC-17E II that I have been avoiding when shooting with f/4 lenses? Surprisingly, the D800 made my TC-17E II usable again. Take a look at this image, shot with the Nikon 300mm f/4 AF-S and TC-17E II:

American Kestrel

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